Saturday, 8 July 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Review

Spider-Man is finally within the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Sony's latest attempt at building a universe around the character failed 3 years ago. Fans were thrilled with the news and the character's appearance in 2016's 'Captain America: Civil War' was a highlight for many. However, with this being the third different incarnation of the character in 15 years, many are still skeptical about this edition. If 'Homecoming' is anything to go by, we may be on our way to having the best representation of the web-slinger on screen.

After his encounter with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home but is still looking to make an impact on the world and catch the eye of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). Peter now has to combine responsibilities - as a superhero and also going to school at the same time - as he wants to be more than a friendly neighbourhood hero. The emergence of a supervillain The Vulture (Michael Keaton) will put Peter's abilities to the test as he looks to prove himself worthy.

A large criticism that the superhero genre as a whole has garnered recently is a feeling that they all feel the exact same. It must be said, though, that 2017 has looked to change this, with each superhero film being different from one another- 'Logan' as a road trip/drama, 'Guardians 2' as another space comedy. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is no different here as it takes the superhero genre to where it hasn't really been before - high school. 

The latest edition of everyone's favourite web-slinger sees him as a 15-year-old going through the challenges that life is throwing at him in what seems like the closest thing to a John Hughes superhero film that we'll ever see. 'Homecoming' provides a unique superhero story that does double duty as a coming of age story, as our protagonist matures and deals with the normalities of high school. Director Tom Watts looks to create a realistic, modern look at high school life, with no over the top jock bullies and snobby popular girls. This film shows that it's inspired by previous works from Hughes but creates its own modern feeling, adapting to the times whilst maintaining some of the usual tropes. 

As known with coming of age films, interesting characters is a must. Otherwise, you simply don't care about what they are going through. Luckily for 'Homecoming', the main character is a beloved hero whose stories have spanned decades. However, the film doesn't just rely on this to get the character by as Peter Parker is made to be relatable, interesting and entertaining, leading to you wanting to see more of him. The biggest task faced was trying to create the perfect Spider-Man, something that many believe hasn't been represented on screen. Tobey Maguire is thought to have been great as the geeky Peter Parker but didn't excel as the witty Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield had a similar fate, just with the roles reversed with him suiting the cocky, quick-wittedness of Spider-Man. Tom Holland handles the awkward geeky side of Peter Parker very well, seeming shy, unconfident and fairly awkward during his day to day life. As Spider-Man, he is a completely different person - witty, full of confidence and charisma. The Peter Parker/Spider-Man combo has never been handled equally as well. Holland succeeds in both aspects, more so than his predecessors. Due to this, no matter how nostalgic the previous actors make you feel, Tom Holland is undoubtedly the best representation of Spider-Man ever seen on the big screen.

Peter's high school experience brings us some new interesting and fun characters to the series as well. Jacob Batalon provides comic relief as Peter's best friend Ned, who is even geekier and awkward leading to some outbursts that are hilarious. Batalon is great as he himself has to deal with knowing that his best friend is a famous hero and has to try his best to not let it slip. Eugene 'Flash' Thompson returns in the form of Tony Revolori who is a much different version of the character, being much more of an arrogant, vocal bully rather than one that's athletically inclined. Revolori does well as not a completely serious bully, acting immature with silly insults and actions to make others look bad. There is plenty of comeuppance for Thompson in what is the most attention the character has ever been given in any film before. However, it is Zendaya who seems to steal the show as Michelle Jones, a tribute to MJ from previous Spider-Man comics and films. Michelle is clearly inspired by Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynolds from 'The Breakfast Club'. The character is a loner who spends most of the time by herself and doesn't really seem to fit in with others. She is clever, quick witted, weird and incredibly cool. Zendaya steals every scene that she is in, with her cleverness and humour providing many great moments. Michelle has one of the coolest personalities in film this year and will have you wanting to see more of her in the future.

'Homecoming' is still undoubtedly very much so an MCU film, with the superhero part still being the main focus. We get to skip the origin story of Spider-Man and jump straight into the character dealing with his new responsibilities. Here we get the rare chance to see superheroes handle smaller situations, as the masked man stops car thieves and helps give people directions. Due to this, he feels human and like every other person. We rarely see the superheroes doing tasks that aren't just normal helpful tasks. We do of course get the bigger scale action throughout the story as Spider-Man looks to find larger opportunities to prove himself.

An interesting aspect of the film is how Peter has to deal with this new suit that he has been given. As a young man with newly acquired powers, he is rather rash and even flashy when using them meaning he has to mature and use them responsibly. However, as he grows with the suit and realises its potential, he loses track of this and puts himself and others in further harm. There is a real character development through this as Peter realises how influential his actions really are and what can happen. The use of Robert Downey Jr and Jon Favreau as mentors for Peter really help this progress as well, as they stand in as sort of father figures, making restraints that Peter disobeys whilst looking out for his best interests. Downey Jr and Favreau's roles are minimal but effective nonetheless.

With these superhero movies, it always seems as if the film is about some person trying to destroy the entire world. 'Homecoming' is a lot more of a smaller story, dealing with a supervillain thief rather than someone determined on world domination. This again is a great change as it isn't the same story yet again, allowing the story to feel fresh and different from the others. This is what makes 'Homecoming' such a success, it feels fresh in a time where there are many superhero films. A difference in sub-genre, story elements, and fresh new characters really give this film life.

 In saying this, though, the main faults do come from the usual problems that the MCU as a whole has. Michael Keaton gives a good performance as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture but the problem is that he is severely underdeveloped. We see how he gains this equipment but there is a severe change in his psyche that makes him more of a supervillain. This lacked much character progression and just seemed to be a rushed effort to turn Toomes from a workman to suddenly an evil villain. The score as well is not very memorable and is weak despite including the animated series theme song early on. The film's runtime comes in at 133 minutes which does feel a bit too long. A good fifteen minutes could probably be cut as there is enough in the two hours to satisfy the audience.

The screenplay credits six people and usually, when there are multiple people working together on one script, it can cause problems. With different ideas and personalities, it could even destroy a film's chances of succeeding. However, with 'Homecoming', the script is actually very solid, combining the high school life of Peter with the action-packed life of Spider-Man. The script also delivers a lot of laughs as the usual MCU humour is turned up a notch. We get to see Spider-Man in his best form due to this as he is quippy during his fight scenes. But the film as a whole is incredibly funny through its whole runtime, with side characters doing their bit equally to provide some great comedic moments. The great Stan Lee is also involved in this with his latest and one of his most funny cameos yet.

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' combines elements of a high school, coming of age film and an action, superhero movie incredibly well. It has great characters, humour and action that will satisfy fans of the genre. In a year of great superhero films, 'Homecoming' does stand out, offering something that feels fresh and isn't a carbon copy of everything else. This is a highly enjoyable, fun film that fans of the MCU and of the character, in general, will surely enjoy.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

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